She’s Hindustani, he’s Sydney-stani. So, can the twain of India and Australia meet-‘n’-mate? Samasya: The lady isn’t too keen – because of cultural disparities -- even though he’s utterly smitten. The love bug has bitten.
Over, then, to the cutie-pie efforts by the former cricket legend, Brett Lee, to bowl his maiden over as an actor, courtesy the Anupam Sharma-directed UnIndian, bankrolled by the Australia India Film Fund. A nice try for sure, but there’s a hitch. The result doesn’t score high, essentially because of an all-too familiar pitch.
Rewind to Gurinder Chadha’s Bride And Prejudice (2004), for instance, which had mish-mashed the classic Jane Austen novel (replace Bride with Pride, please) into some fluff-‘n’-nonsense about an American guy who goes nuts about Aishwarya Raiji. Admittedly, Sharma’s rom-com is a vast improvement, spiced with flashes of charm, giggle-out-loud moments and smart technical flourishes.
Indeed, the UnIndian team is inspired, never mind if the diaspora theme – as depicted -- is pretty much outdated. Plus, it bristles with clichés galore. A Holi dance is a must, you know, for a desi colour splasheroo. Ditto a dekko at religious rituals, disco dhinchak, not to forget a typical overwrought mother (Supriya Pathak), who appears to have leapt out of a vintage Doordarshan TV soap. Mope.
Not the sort to permit her Australia-settled daughter, Meera (Tannishtha Chatterjee) to remain an independent single mother -- post a divorce -- mummyji hopes she will remarry. The preferred option: a doctor of Indian origin, naturally.
However, that amounts to asking for the moon wearing a stethoscope. Meanwhile, sweet-as-sheera Will (Brett Lee) strives to woo apni Meera. Incidentally, the oddly described “hottie with the dot” (forehead teeka) teaches propah English diction to the Aussies. Or how not to mix up “good bye” instead of “g’bye”. So tongue-in-chic.
On Will’s team, count childhood buddy T.K. (Arka Das, utterly spontaneous), who plays the proverbial Cupid by commencing a lightning-fast course in matters Indian. No non-veg, no beer, no smooching. You get the drift.
That’s about the sum and the lack of substance of the plot which packs in quickie comments on the seemingly ceaseless racism, job discrimination and assorted hurdles which have to be surmounted by the INC aka the Indian National Community which revels in gossip, conservative values and its own desi brand of inverse snobbery. Daiya re daiya, tell us what we don’t know already.
Moreover, towards the resolution point, there’s an abrupt Bollywoodisation of the romance which was chugging along fairly pleasantly. Arrives a Beastly Baddy, who wells over with the poison of human kindness, and is so mean-hearted that he could be Mogambo’s long-lost nephew. Aah, so the question is: can/should Will and Meera wed with band baaja baraat and all?
Frankly by this point, you can predict every scene by a mile. Also, characterisations such as Meera’s daughter are caricaturish. No sharp edges to the story. And surprises are sorely conspicuous by their absence.
Of the ensemble cast, comprising Indian and Aussie actors, Supriya Pathak, Akash Khurana , John Howard and Gulshan Grover, they go through the paces competently. Tannishtha Chatterjee, who’s been on the verge of broad recognition, is first-rate, enhancing a largely one-dimensional role with a smidgen of strength and spleen.
Coming to the USP, Brett Lee shuttles between exuding a boyish goofiness and a wholesome cornflake appeal. He does manage to strike a likeable screen presence, but that’s about it. Clearly, the former hurricane-paced bowler doesn’t knock out too many wickets here, affirming that cricket legends are more often than not UnActors.
To see or not to see, then?: Toss a coin. Heads, you go. Tails, you don’t.
Image Source: Sbs, Fugomo & twitter/unindianfilm
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